Should Cheerios Be GMO Free?

General Mills is ensuring the cereal is made without biotech ingredients.

Boxes of Cheerios at a grocery store.
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General Mills announced that it will now produce Cheerios without genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The Minneapolis-based company will use corn starch and sugar free of biotech ingredients to make one of America's most popular breakfast cereals.

The main ingredient, oats, does not exist in a genetically modified form. The company said the formula for making the cereal was not altered in order to make the cereal GMO free; it already manufactures a GMO-free version in Europe.

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"It's the unique and simple nature of original Cheerios that made this possible – and even that required significant investment over nearly a year. Cheerios' principal ingredient has always been whole grain oats, and there are no GMO oats," said General Mills on the Cheerios website. "[W]e were able to change how we source and handle ingredients to ensure that the corn starch for original Cheerios comes only from non-GMO corn, and our sugar is only non-GMO pure cane sugar."

The company also stressed the safety of GMO ingredients, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have both found biotech crops to be just as safe to eat as those that have not been engineered. Cheerios also comes in 11 other varieties, and the company will not manufacture those GMO free:

For our other cereals, the widespread use of GM seed in crops such as corn, soy, or beet sugar would make reliably moving to non-GM ingredients difficult, if not impossible. General Mills produces several organic cereals that by definition cannot use GM ingredients – and sell those products nationally – so we already offer consumers a wide range of non-GM cereal choices.

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Those who support eliminating GMOs from the American food supply said removing GMOs from Cheerios is a positive move that shows Americans are more interested in where their food comes from. Todd Larsen, director of corporate responsibility for the green economy organization Green America, lauded the move:

Removing GMOs from original Cheerios is an important victory in getting GMOs out of our food supply and an important first step for General Mills. Original Cheerios in its famous yellow box will now be non-GMO and this victory sends a message to all food companies that consumers are increasingly looking for non-GMO products and companies need to meet that demand.

The organization also encouraged consumers to tell General Mills that other Cheerio varieties should also be made GMO free. The company has opposed moves to require GMO labeling on food products, and spent $1.1 million against legislation that would have required labels in California.

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